2016 McLaren 570S Review: First Drive

$379,000 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    11.1L
  • Engine Power
    419kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    258g
  • ANCAP Rating
    N/A

Set to challenge convention in a number of areas, the McLaren 570S signifies a new, more attainable, more useable focus for the English brand, but has it still got that McLaren mojo…

Twenty-three years ago, if you wanted a McLaren that could hit 100km/h in 3.2 seconds, you had one choice: the million-dollar McLaren F1. Today though, all you need is $379,000. Make way for the new McLaren 570S.

It’s rare to call a high-end sports car, or ‘super’ sports car, affordable. But priced between the $366,100 Porsche 911 Turbo and $387,300 911 GT3 RS, the McLaren 570S (announced earlier this year at $408,000 driveaway) undercuts the iconic British marque’s previous entry point, the 650S, by more than $80,000.

Due to launch locally in the second quarter of 2016, the 570S is the debut car for McLaren’s ‘entry-level’ Sports Series and will be joined later next year by the less powerful and even cheaper (everything’s relative) $350,000 540C.

For those unfamiliar with McLaren’s three-tier product line-up, the Sports Series sits below the Super Series (comprising the 650S Coupe and Spider and 675LT) and the Ultimate Series (the domain of the hybrid P1 hypercar and its even more extreme twin, the P1 GTR).

Intended from the outset of its three-year gestation period to be the brand’s most useable, practical and attainable model ever, it’s clear that for McLaren, the 570S is a fairly important model – and one that it hopes will attract new clientele to the marque and help it boost its annual production volume to around 3400 units by 2017 and 4000 units annually in the years beyond that.

So what better way to sample the new car than drive it on road and on track, at its international launch in the Algarve in Portugal.

Whether it was designed with a focus on day-to-day comfort and practicality or not, the rear-wheel-drive 570S, codenamed P13, still looks out of this world.

Blending a 75kg carbonfibre MonoCell II chassis with ‘Superformed’ aluminium body panels – the latter a first for a McLaren – the 570S not only looks stunning, it’s light. At 1313kg (dry), it weighs significantly less than any of its key rivals and 21kg less than the $550,000 track special Ferrari 458 Speciale.

Regardless of what you think of the combined look of the McLaren’s aluminium bonnet, fenders, roof, rear deck, and lower dihedral door sections and composite front splitter, upper door sections and door ‘tendons’, it’s all there for a reason.

The front bumper, for example, separates airflow into four directions. Below that, ‘Aero Blades’ channel air into front-mounted low-temperature radiators. There’s a rear diffuser, a completely flat underbody and a fixed rear wing. McLaren says the 570S’s specifically designed wing mirror arms improve cooling efficiency by two per cent. Think they’re taking things seriously?

Measuring 18mm longer and 2mm wider than the 650S, the 4530mm-long, 2095mm-wide 570S shares its carbonfibre core with every other modern-day McLaren, though uniquely, its tub has been redesigned to better aid cabin ingress and egress.

Narrower front sills have been lowered 85mm compared with those on Super Series cars, while McLaren’s trademark up-swinging dihedral doors have also had their ‘operating range’ extended to create larger door apertures. And, to a degree, it’s all worked.

It’s not as easy as jumping into a conventionally-doored Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT S or Porsche 911 for example, but the process is far less awkward than it was with the old 12C.

Climb in, and in the standard car, you’re met by leather buckets – six-way adjustable for the driver and four-way adjustable for the passenger. Neither feature heating or memory functions but both can be optioned together for $7000.

If you’re like us though, you’ll be wanting the $13,120 lightweight P1-sourced carbonfibre racing seats. Individually adjusted to suit each owner’s desired driving position, and available in ‘Regular’ and ‘Large’ widths, the Alcantara items are impressively comfortable.

Cabin space is reasonable with no shoulder rubbing between driver and passenger and while the overall quality of materials and fit and finish initially seems high, there are some finer details that highlight the car’s hand-built nature, such as minor trim, material and stitching irregularities.

Cleaner and more interesting than the cockpit of a new 911, the 570S interior has been cleverly thought out to include cup holders, a respectable glove box, netted storage pockets, a centre console bin with three USB ports, and handy pockets that tuck away into scalloped doors.

Tucked under the bonnet is 150 litres of cargo space and, interestingly, the 570S is the first McLaren ever to feature vanity mirrors – fancy.

Frontal vision is excellent thanks to noticeably inboard A-pillars and an impressively wide windscreen, though over-shoulder vision is trickier due to the car’s ‘flying buttresses’. And while the optional ($2640) rear-view camera helps, due to the McLaren’s responsive seven-inch touchscreen being mounted portrait-style rather than landscape, the displayed view borders on comical.

Accompanying more ‘common’ equipment, such as dual-zone climate control air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming and a standard four-speaker stereo (eight- and 12-speaker systems are optional for $4260 and $9080 respectively), is Mclaren’s ‘Active Dynamics Panel’.

Sitting below the central touchscreen, the multi-button panel allows drivers to individually choose between ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’ or ‘Track’ modes for both the adaptive suspension (‘H’ for handling) and the engine and gearbox (‘P’ for powertrain).

Here too one can opt for manual, paddle-only shifting from the seven-speed dual-clutch SSG transmission, or engage McLaren’s new ‘Dynamic’ stability control mode – reducing ESC intervention to allow for greater “driftability” – or turn the safety systems off altogether.

There is another button staring us in the face, though: the McLaren’s understated start button. We push it and wait the fraction of a second it takes the starter motor to quickly encourage the mid-rear-mounted engine to fire up.

Sitting just behind our heads, the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 engine might sound familiar – the same basic unit has been a McLaren staple since the MP4-12C launched in 2011 – but the UK marque says in this latest guise, the 3799cc M838TE is home to 30 per cent new components.

With the help of new cylinder heads, different turbos, a new crankcase and unique equal-length stainless steel exhaust manifolds, the 570S comes to the super sports car party with 420kW of power (at 7400rpm) and 600Nm of torque (between 5000-6500rpm).

On paper then, the McLaren’s nearest rivals appear to be span the Audi R8, Ferrari California T, Mercedes-AMG GT S, and the venerable Porsche 911 Turbo.

But with a McLaren F1-equalling 3.2-second 0-100km/h time, a 9.5-second 0-200km/h claim and a top speed of 328km/h, the McLaren 570S blurs some lines – in some areas outperforming the $428,000 all-wheel-drive Lamborghini Huracan.

The mere mention of the force-fed engine’s flat-plane crankshaft and dry sump lubrication system is sure to bring smiles to enthusiasts’ faces, though, the environmentally conscious will be impressed to hear that McLaren’s first car to feature engine stop-start technology also claims 11.1 litres per 100km.

And once you start driving the 570S, you’ll quickly appreciate greater distances between fill-ups.

Largely juggling between ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ modes for our 130km road loop to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – otherwise known as the Circuit Portimao – the ‘baby McLaren’ does a solid job of plastering smiles on faces (drivers, passengers and passersby).

In the McLaren’s tamest setting, engine noise into the cabin is more prominent than in say, a 911 Turbo. For some, this will be no bad thing, but others could find the constant low-frequency V8 drone and light turbo spooling less appealing.

Rolling as standard on forged 19-inch front, 20-inch rear wheels wrapped in 35-profile Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres (225mm- and 285mm-wide respectively), ride in the 570S isn't particularly forgiving or supple compared to the likes of the 911 Turbo or new Audi R8.

On not entirely terrible Portuguese roads in and around Faro, the ‘Mac’ can occasionally buck and hop, with coarse chip surfaces being heard and felt in the cabin.

For a car that’s being spruiked as having a road bias, a 911 Turbo is a far more sedate, benign place to be when you want it to be. That said, for engagement and a sense of excitement, the new Brit has it all over the all-wheel-drive German.

Sport mode brings with it more engine noise but, despite feeling more strapped down and less prone to roll, the ride is only marginally firmer. It easily feels pointier in Sport though, with a general eagerness that is a little held back in Normal.

The more focused mode also makes the consistent, evenly weighted and laser accurate hydraulic steering a little heavier but without diminishing its exceptional feel and feedback.

And while the engine’s lazy on-road torque character and ‘seamless-shift’ gearbox’s barely perceptible ratio swaps combine to make cruising between 1500-3000rpm a breeze, head onto the track, and the car becomes an entirely different beast.

Lift revs to between 5000rpm and the 570S’s 8500rpm rev limit, and more of its true potential is revealed. And it’s properly fast.

Crisp, agile, and ultra responsive. The monster six- and four-piston carbon ceramic brakes (394mm front, 380mm rear) might be a bit of hard work on the road, but transition from road to track – particularly with our favourite settings of ‘Track’ and ESC Dynamic selected – and the McLaren 570S is not only hugely capable, it’s outrageous fun.

To see just how much fun, we jump into the passenger seat for a number of hot laps of the 4.6-kilometre circuit with McLaren’s chief test driver – and all round legend – Chris Goodwin.

Equally modulating throttle and steering angle, Goodwin slides through Portimao’s blind corners, holds flat through its famous elevation changes and stretches the McLaren’s legs beyond 270km/h down the start/finish straight. Impressive stuff from both car and driver.

The new McLaren 570S is a more than livable everyday proposition, provided you’re the right buyer. It’s not as comfortable or easy-to-live-with as a Porsche 911 Turbo and not as composed as a new Audi R8. Drive it hard though, or get it on track, and finding a more engaging, enthralling and exhilarating car becomes be a very hard task. It also makes it difficult to comprehend just how much more 'McLaren' you could ever need – here’s looking at you 650S…

Click on the Photos tab for more selected 2016 McLaren 570S images by David Zalstein.